Holders of Interrail passes secure a 50% discount on all scheduled boat services on Lake Geneva in Switzerland (photo © hidden europe).
Interrail is all about trains. Or so it’s said. But actually your Interrail pass will often secure free or substantially discounted boat travel too.
These watery benefits can be a real perk for holders of all passes, but holders of a flexi pass – that is a pass valid for a fixed number of travel days within a period, eg. 7 days in a month – need to be aware of the rules.
If a ferry or boat company offers a discount for pass holders on the ticket price, then holders of flexi passes don’t need to enter a date in their pass travel calendar. This is a real perk, and one of which we have made great use over the years. You can ride the steamers on Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne or Lake Geneva all day with a handsome 50% discount and it doesn’t count as a travel day for flexi pass holders.
However, if ferry or boat travel becomes completely free if you have an Interrail pass, then you can only take advantage of the free ride on dates you have entered in the travel calendar of your Interrail pass. So a completely free boat trip means you use one of those precious travel days on which your pass is valid. Sometimes that makes perfect sense of course. And in the small print of the rules, there’s the very useful concession that “If it's a free overnight ferry, you can enter either the date of departure or the arrival date in your travel calendar.”
The special ferry and shipping concessions which are available for Interrail pass holders may vary from year to year, and even from season to season. We have found that Tallink Silja, for example, offers a generous 50% discount in low season on their routes from Finland to Sweden and Estonia, but that discount tapers to just 20% in high season.
In most cases, available discounts are applied only to the actual passage fare and not to supplements for cabins and meals. But there are exceptions. Minoan Lines, for example, offer a 20% discount which applies not merely to the fare but extends to all accommodation categories.
Routes on which ferry discounts are available include:
But that list is just a taster. There are many more services including those boat trips on Swiss lakes which we’ve already mentioned, daytime cruises on the River Rhine or River Danube and even trips to Turkey’s Lake Van by ferry.
Fuller details, with notes on how to secure the applicable discounts, are available on the Interrail website. Similar benefits apply to Eurail pass holders.
About The Authors
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the book Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. The 17th edition of that book will be published in mid-April 2022. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on this website.